THE Countryside Restoration Trust (CRT) has completed the most significant purchase in its 30-year history of wildlife friendly farming.

Bere Marsh Farm, on the banks of the River Stour in Shillingstone, is set to become the trust’s national showcase for its holistic fusion of sustainable, traditional farming methods, habitat restoration and a dedicated education programme focused around the importance of food provenance.

The farm’s 92 acres of wetland, grassland and woodland, which is rich in butterflies, birds, wildflowers and rare mammals, makes it the perfect setting to commemorate the trust’s co-founder and Dorset conservation icon, artist Gordon Beningfield.

Executive chairman of the CRT, Robin Page, said: “It is the perfect place for us where we can bring together everything we believe in whilst remembering Gordon and his devotion to the countryside. It represents our vision and why he and I decided to found the trust all those years ago.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us to shape it into the showcase for our work and our vision, but it’s a challenge we have long wanted.”

The trust’s philosophy will be brought to life at Bere Marsh Farm under the supervision and direction of estate manager Elaine Spencer White, an agricultural consultant and specialist marketeer who is also a trustee of the CRT.

She said: “Bere Marsh has everything we want and need to make it the exemplar farm of our estate.

“The setting is magnificent, the farmstead and land perfect but above all else it has footpaths, car parks and a bridleway all running through it. You could not ask for more in terms of footfall and site awareness.”

The intention with this project is to introduce a small herd of milking cows, free range hens, a small flock of sheep, an orchard and a nursery.

The trust also hopes to produce bread at the farm from wheat grown in the fields of other CRT farms as well as beer and cider from CRT barley and apples.

Existing barns and outbuildings will be specially converted to create the education centre, alongside a dedicated art gallery devoted to the wildlife artwork of Gordon Beningfield.

The curriculum based education programme for children MOSAIC works closely with the trust.

Robin added: “It is a highly ambitious plan but it will be where the CRT puts itself on the map and finally makes our Dorset dream come true.”